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Perspectives on "Andre’s Mother"

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Background of Play:

“Andre’s Mother” is a play written by Terrence McNally, a gay writer, in 1988. It describes a scene about a funeral in New York City, Central Park for a young gay. As a play in late 1900s, the author of “Andre’s Mother” Makes homosexuality, a negatively sensitive topic at that time, acceptable for general audience by “normalizing” it in different ways.

View from spectator’s prespective:

In this play, instead of focusing on a gay couple’s perspective, Terrence McNally also writes in spectators’ perspective. He portrays four characters related to Andre, and their relations can reflect the reality of homosexuality in the society at that time. Arthur and Penny as relatives of Cal provide a view of the family members of a gay: they know and accepted Cal’s sexual preference and provided him full support and love, they are happy for Cal being himself. For example, Arthur says “I’m trying to say how much I liked Andre……My wife was very fond to him, too.” Also, Penny mourns Andre by saying “God forgive me……Something terrific.” They sincerely expressed their love and sorrow for Andre in their own different way. This is the reason why McNally puts these two characters in this play (at least one of the reasons). He wants to show all the audience that there will still be understanding people no matter which time period it is or if they were younger or older generation.

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On the other hand, Andre’s mother goes to another extreme. As a family member, she is totally unable to accept or understand the love between Cal and Andre, which is the major attitude of the society at that time. The disagreement was so strong and powerful that she cannot even let go of her son’s soul at the beginning.

Reasons behind isolation:

According to what Cal says to Andre’s mother, Andre and his mother were isolated from each other because of her disapproval and his fear. This was also what truly happened to most of gays and their family in that time period. They had to force themselves to stay in the closet and play the masculine gender performance. Otherwise they will be disowned by the society or even their own family. Just like what Cal said: “We lose ourselves here”. At the very end, the mother kissed the balloon and let go of it after struggling for several times. However, we cannot tell that if she truly understands his son or she just decides to left it behind because she loves him.

Intentional moral values of the play:

McNally shows the real predicament of gays to the audience by a scene about huge loss. This will bring the sympathy of the audience, and let the society get to know or understand more about gays.

Additionally, AIDS were the major reason that caused people to start resisting homosexuality in 1980s. Most people at that time believed that it is the cause of AIDS. McNally also mentioned AIDs: Andre died because of this disease, but Cal “tested negative”, and Andre “died bravely”. The author didn’t talk much about AIDS but focused on how brave and happy they are for being themselves. In this way, after being impressed by the story, the stereotype might be weakened or even changed among the audience.

One more thing to notice about this play is that the author added some light comic relief on Arthur and Penny. Their conversation lines at the beginning are obviously much more relaxing and interesting than Cal’s lines. Especially before penny release her balloon, she makes jokes about Andre such as “I-know-what-Cal-means-about-words…man” and “God forgive me for wishing you were straight every time I laid eyes on you”. Since homosexuality was a very heavy and sensitive topic at that year, and so is death, McNally deliberately added comic relief inside this play to make this topic more interesting and more widely acceptable.

Basically, Terrence McNally normalized Andre’s Mother, a play with homosexual topic, for general audience by showing people gays’ life in the real world, bring people to know about them, and tell people how to understand them. This is a brave move for him to challenge and change the innate thoughts of people in that time period.

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